Holiday Libations 2019 – Whiskey
‘Tis the season for holiday cheer. In the past two weeks, Tod Stewart has recommended beer, brandy and a whole barrel full of spirits. The last of his recommendations covers whisky (or whiskey, depending on where it’s from).
Alberta Premium 20 Years Old “Limited Edition” Canadian Rye Whisky
Alberta Distillers’ rye whiskies are actually distilled from 100 per cent rye, which isn’t always the case with Canadian whiskies labelled as “rye.” This limited edition 20-year-old version delivers forward candied orange peel/marmalade notes, with a suggestion of red berry. There’s also some dusty, polished wood nuances and just the very slightest trace of acetate. Spicy/peppery explosive rye on the well-integrated palate. There are traces of citrus, leather, and mild caramel as well that linger pleasantly on the long, memorable finish. Distinctive.
Alberta Premium Cask Strength “Limited Edition” Canadian Rye Whisky
This powerful Canadian rye packs a wallop at 65.1 percent ABV. A dash of water not only tempers the heat, but also allows the aromas to become a bit less “locked in.” Some red apple and kirsch-like nuances on the nose, with a dash of brown butter and butterscotch. Depending to what degree you decide to dilute it, you’ll get a whack of bold, cayenne spice, orange zest, red berries, and buttered nuts. The finish goes on…and on…and….
Ardbeg “The Ultimate” 10-Year-Old Single Islay Malt
Admittedly, Ardbeg malts are a “love it or hate it” proposition. The 10-Year-Old pretty much sets the bar for medicinal/iodine/Band-Aid (place “R” symbol here), brine, and kelp aromas. That being said, it’s probably one of the most pleasantly unique spirits you’re going to encounter. There’s a distinct sweetness on the palate, amidst the smouldering, peaty char, and dried malty grain. And the balance is impeccable. Depending on your particular bent, you’ll find this malt to be either paradise or punishment. Or, if you’re so inclined, a wee bit of both.
Auchentoshan “The Bartender’s Malt” Single Malt Scotch Whisky Annual Limited Edition / 02
The whole deal about Lowland malts being all about “lightness” and “delicacy” and all other words used to connote, well, wimpiness, has to go. Take this “limited edition” Auchentoshan, blended (for a second year) by a panel of global bartenders. Bottled at 50 percent ABV, this is a robust dram, loaded aromatically with candied citrus, sultana, cinnamon/nutmeg and a hint of red berries. Buckwheat honey, black pepper, and orange zest in the mouth, with a long, warm, memorable finish.
BEARFACE Triple Oak Canadian Whisky
“Hide Nothing. Fear Nothing.” It’s the tagline of BEARFACE Triple Oak, a Canadian whisky aged for seven years in a combination of ex-Bourbon, French wine, and new Hungarian oak barrels dried for three years. A truly collaborative effort, this is warm, supple whisky, with aromas of citrus peel, brown sugar, hard toffee, and toasted nuts. Robust and smooth, with apparent fruit on the palate, enhanced by warm spice and toasted grain flavours. Silky, with a dash of chilli pepper on the finish.
Canadian Club Chronicles Issue No. 2 “The Dock Man” 42-Year-Old Canadian Whisky
The oldest Canadian whisky ever bottled. In a word: incomparable. In most cases, something reminds you of a similar something. In this case, not at all (unless you are comparing it to the 41-Year-Old, maybe the 40-Year-Old…but here you are discussing the attributes of triplets…and upsetting the parents). Dark cherry, butterscotch, vanilla bean, cocoa and a certain je ne sais quoi aroma are all present in the engaging aromatic profile. Flavours lean toward sultana, sweet, buttery toffee, walnut, and spicy, gingery notes. Glorious.
Glenmorangie Allta “Private Edition” No. 10
This is the first Glenmorangie single malt that uses wild yeast (sourced from barley fields near the distillery) to ferment the mash prior to distillation. There must be something to this, because this is outstanding stuff. The penetrating aromas suggest warm bread dough, honey, toasted grains, citrus peel, and sultana. Round, deep, and powerful in the mouth, with alluring caramel/toffee, baked apple, vanilla, and citrus flavours that fade slowly into a lingering finish hinting a chilli and jalapeño peppers.
Glenmorangie “The Original” Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 10 Years
“I want to get into single malts, but I don’t know where to start.” I hear this a bit. My answer? Right here, with the Glenmorangie (sounds like “orangey”) 10-Year-Old. Not that this is a “beginner” malt, it’s just that it’s so easy to like. Orange peel, lemon, marzipan/nougat, a touch of honey and some floral nuances on the nose; balanced and gentle on the palate, yet with enough complexity to satisfy true aficionados.
J.P. Wiser’s Manhattan Whisky Cocktail
Granted, a Manhattan isn’t a difficult cocktail to mix (whisky, vermouth, a dash of bitters and a garnish), but there are times when you’d rather spend your time sipping rather than mixing. Enter this ready-to-drink premixed number. Just pour over ice and garnish. Nicely balanced, not overly sweet, and with good whisky character. You could, if you wanted to roll up your sleeves, riff on this base to your heart’s content.
Read another review of the Manhattan Whisky Cocktail here.
Knob Creek Quarter Oak Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
If you’re a big fan of the gentle, the timid, the “refined,” stay away – far away – from this in-your-face bourbon. Bottled at 50 per cent ABV and finished in small, quarter-sized American oak barrels to increase the oak component, this is a powerful, potent, and prodigious whiskey that will warm you from tip to toe. In spite of its power, it isn’t all about clubbing you to death with excess. There is some elegance – sweet treacle, dried apricot, warm spice – stirring beneath the initial onslaught of charred oak and cayenne hotness. Dilute to a level that suits. Or man up and knock down neat.
Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Single Islay Malt
The typical Laphroaig smokiness intermingles with some delicate, fruity aromatics. Dried fruit on the well-integrated palate, with caramel, toffee, and spice flavours that trail off onto a dry, mildly briny end notes. I tried this with some blue cheese, which introduced some vaguely nutty flavours to the finish.
Laphroaig 16-Year-Old Single Islay Malt
While the peat is still there (it’s Laphroaig, right?), the additional age has rendered it somewhat tamer – and more fruity/floral than what the younger versions doll out. Citrus, toasted nuts, brine, mild iodine…they’re all there. Warm, viscous, round and complex in the mouth, with beautifully integrated sweet/smoky flavours and a long, long, long (this really can’t be understated) finish. More, please.
Legent Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
East meets west as this first-of-its-kind bourbon melds Kentucky distilling tradition with Japanese blending expertise. This is a first-of-a-kind undertaking; a unique innovation that starts as a Kentucky Straight Bourbon with the Beam classic family recipe, aged in wine and sherry casks before being blended with more Kentucky Straight Bourbon. The whiskey is distilled by Fred Noe, seventh-generation Master Distiller of Jim Beam, bourbon’s pioneering family, then artfully blended by Shinji Fukuyo, fifth-ever Chief Blender of Suntory, the founding house of Japanese whisky. The result is a rather different bourbon, at least as far as those I tasted it with thought. The first thing that hits you is the amazingly forward citrus note – akin to orange oil and lemon zest. There are also distinct floral notes (spring blossoms?) some chocolate, pine, and herbal (cilantro, maybe?) components. The usual aromatic suspects (sultana, treacle, and toasted nuts) also make an appearance. In the mouth, it is rich and super smooth, with citrus fruit (orange peel again), mild spice, and suggestions of fruitcake and caramel. Long and beautifully structured.